BY REV. JAN WHITEMAN
LANGDON UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
"You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14
I truly believe that this scripture fits perfectly for this time of year. I'm not sure that many people make new year's resolutions anymore, but we often see the beginning of a new year as a time to try to reinvent ourselves. In these two verses from Paul's letter to the Colossian Church, we are given some sound advice as he suggests five new clothing items we might put on to help give us a fresh start in 2016.
"... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."
These are five attitudes that we shouldn't leave home without. We begin with compassion. During the Christmas season, we are reminded of the character Scrooge -- a man who was too busy with his own checkbook balance to notice the needs of those around him. We too, may have been too busy with all the things filling up our lives to notice a neighbor in need, a lonely friend, a coworker with family problems. A compassionate person is someone who not only 'balances his own checkbook,' but wants to help people -- "clothe yourselves with compassion."
"... and kindness." I recently saw a beautiful example of what kindness looks like on a person. It was a short story called "Burned Biscuits." The writer said that after a hard day at work, his mother often made breakfast food for dinner sometimes. He tells that his mother put a plate of eggs, sausage & very burned biscuits in front of his dad. Rather than get angry, his dad took his biscuit, smiled at his mom, and then asked the writer how his day was at school. He remembers his dad smearing butter and jelly on that burned biscuit and eating every bite of it -- not even making a face or saying a word. Later, his mom apologized to his dad for burning the biscuits. Dad told her, "Honey, I love burned biscuits every now and then." As the boy said good night to his dad, he asked him if he REALLY liked his biscuits burned. The dad gave him a hug and told his son that mom had put a hard day in at work and she was real tired. And besides -- a little burned biscuit never hurt anyone! Life is hard, no one is perfect! Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. How much better it can be when we "clothe ourselves with kindness..."
"...and humility." Humility means that you are unpretentious. It is the opposite of arrogance or being prideful in your spirit. It is showing others deferential respect. When you're humble, you don't think about how great YOU are -- but rather think about others and their feelings and needs. The closer you get to God, the lower you will be in your own esteem. "...clothe yourselves in humility."
"...and gentleness." Gentleness is the opposite of rage. The opposite of the man ranting and raving at the customer service counter or the mother screaming at the child who accidentally spills her juice on the rug. Gentleness is like snow -- it beautifies everything it covers. Gentleness is one of the strongest of all virtues. We would do well to "...clothe ourselves in gentleness."
"...and patience." This "article of clothing" is not always a good fit for me! Like waiting in the express checkout lane behind the woman with 40 items instead of 20, or getting behind the guy at the gas pump who has no idea how to use his credit card to get the pump started! Instead of putting others in their place, try putting yourself in their place occasionally. The wonderful thing about patience is that it goes a long way, and yet the more we use it, the more we have! "...clothe yourselves in patience."
These 5 "new clothing items" are very important. But Paul gives two more that we would do well to put on --"Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another." This is a tight-fitting clothing item for many. Before our eyes, we witness more acts of terror every day. The nightly news is full of hurt, angry people seeking only revenge on those who have wronged them. But the bitterness that we hold onto doesn't hurt anyone but us. The only petition in the Lord's Prayer that has a condition attached is the one on forgiveness. It all begins with us. It is far better to forgive and forget than to resent and remember.
Lastly, Paul tells us here that LOVE is the necessary clothing item that brings us all together in unity. Love is connected with forgiveness in that it doesn't keep a ledger of the sins and failures of others. True love is willing to help people even if it hurts them. I believe that putting on LOVE is the best clothing item to start with. When we truly love others, we will automatically exhibit compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness , patience and forgiveness in all we do and say.
God will help you get into these "new clothes for a new year" -- all you need to do is seek him every day. May you be blessed as you begin 2016!